Ihave been a believer in Jesus Christ for six years. I was convertedwhen I turned thirty-one at the youth rally that took place at myhome church. When I heard the young preacher talking about evil andwhat such evil does to the relationship between the evildoers andGod, I realized that I was not worthy to call myself the son ofChrist as my sins wrecked my connection with my maker. It was myfirst time to realize that the Lord was not satisfied with mytransgressions and that He arranged for my salvation process bysending his begotten son to pay the penalty of my trespasses insteadof demanding such penalty from me.
Mysatanic life was full of dismays and betides that were accompanied byapprehensions. I remember spending four years in jail with all thoseshabby and unfavorable conditions because I was convicted ofblackmailing and extorting some money from people. Apart from theyoung preacher’s encouragement to follow the footsteps of Christ, Ialso realized that the two books, “TheWounded Healer”by Nouwen H.J and “LifeTogether”by Bonhoeffer contributed to my realization of the presence of theveritable God.
Stealingof the Gun and Isolation from the Family
Iwas born in 1980 when my father was a soldier in the National ArmedForces. After my primary school life in 1993, my dad delayed to takeme to the secondary. That was when I got enough time to saunteraround with my pals from one corner of the town to another. One day,as I was gallivanting with my colleagues in one of the slums in thecapital city while discussing the previous match of the premierleague, we encountered a group of older boys carrying a stunning bag.It happened that John, one of such lads, came from the compound I wasresiding, and he bowed to greet me as the other boys moved on.
Johntold me that they were doing their daily activity of traffickingdrugs from the port to the large cities of the country, and they weremaking a lot of cash at the end of the week. After trying to weighmyself regarding my background, my financial status, and theprobability of my father incurring my education expenses and foundthat schooling was not of any use to me, I decided to join John andhis group to mint some dollars.
OnFebruary 1994, when my father was on leave, I sneaked into hisbedroom, snatched his small revolver, and ran away with it to thecity. I broke into John’s business and generated a lot of cash thatmade me desolate my family and live with the drug traffickers forabout two years. However, after wandering my world of a small haven,I started feeling that I lacked something: the love of my parents andsiblings. Because I had stolen my father’s revolver, the thought ofgoing back to my domicile never came to my mind. I decided to get onwith my life.
Inmy new life after reading Bonhoeffer`s book, I came to realize thatthe wound of staying far from my family was hurting. In his firstchapter, Bonhoeffer says that people should live together as God’sfamily. The wound of being away from my loved ones when I was a slaveof the devil made me realize that God wants His people to live as onefamily. Bonhoeffer says that Jesus Christ controls the Christiancommunity (Bonheoffer, 1954).
Whetheran ongoing living or a brief community, all the family members andthe Christian community as a whole belong to one another in Christ.Such statement means that: a) members relate to each other because ofJesus Christ b) the highway to each other is through Christ, and c)from eternity, God’s people have been chosen and United for theeternal life. My life in a crime while living in the ghetto showed animmense separation of the family. Although the wound of separationultimately healed after receiving Jesus Christ as the savior of mylife, I still feel ashamed of deviating from the glory of God despitemy parents being Christians.
Onthe other hand, Nouwen also reminds me that the fellowship of God’sfamily is not just a human association brought together for aparticular purpose, but a family in which human actions and lovescome from Jesus and get into the other people and not from one personto another. Nouwen made me realize that while I was away, the love ofJesus came to my parents but it never came out of them to me. Throughgetting lost in the darkness when I was a criminal, Jesus opened myway to God that was initially blocked by Satan. In Jesus Christalone, my family has been united and serves one another. Nouwen alsomade me realize that a healthier family acknowledges the end of theself-centered element and the beginning of a spiritual element(House,2015).
MyLife as an Extortionist
OnOctober 1994, something nasty happened that almost wreaked my demise.As I woke up in an icy morning from my apartment, I caught the sightof the police officer when I was brushing my teeth at the balcony.Because I was aware that my daily activities were illegal, I starteddeveloping the sense of imminent qualms within me. I rushed back intothe house and wore my jacket and picked my revolver as I took thebackdoor to the electric fence. As I was climbing over the wall, oneof the police officers started shooting continuously at me, theaction that made my gun slip out of its holster and fell back into mycompound.
Despitethe rain of bullets, I was dogged enough to climb the fence and jumpinto the garbage. However, one of the bullets pierced through myshoulder, making it bleed profusely. I crawled through the shabby andsmelly ground into the small bushes as I passed out. The policeofficers cameafterme, but unfortunately, they never found me. Theygave up, as they were certain that I was perhaps dead since one ofthe bullets hit me. I came around while I was in the hospital afterbeing helped by John’s crew. Three days later, I was dischargedfrom the hospital. After some two months, I decided to run myunderworld empire of the blackmailers.
Inthe new business, I had already hatched a plan of extorting some cashfrom National Party’s general election candidate, Dr. Musa Okonta,through his secretary and the bodyguards during the day oftheconventioninFebruary1995. Although I had carried out twosuccessful blackmails before, Dr. Musa’s case became unique. Wewent to the airport that day with an aim of hijacking thepresidential candidate and threaten his life so that we can be paid aransom. Because our plan was discovered, Musa’s bodyguards inconjunction with the police officers dealt with us accordingly wherethree of my aides were shot dead, and two more were arrested with me.
Mylife as an extortionist came to an abrupt end, perhaps because Godwanted me to come back to his remnant church and worship him. In hisbook, Bonhoeffer says that no matter how hard the life becomes, Godalways has the right plans for every person. On the other hand,Nouwen says that no matter the several steps a person makes from God,he will take only one step backward to come back to Him. My wound ofbeing an extortionist took longer to heal, but it shaped my lifeespecially when the two books told me about worshipping God.
Bonhoefferagrees that worship in God’s people starts at dawn, and it includesasking for forgiveness, thanksgiving, reading the Scriptures, andpraying. He emphasizes using the book of Psalms and praying them inthe company of Jesus. The community of extortionist made me realizethat life is nothing if the person has not received God. People arenot satisfied with whatever they have received because the devildirects them towards the wrong direction of wanting more. Nouwen alsoagrees that many people have received miracles in their lives, andthis has happened after they have believed in God.
Ireceived my miracle at the youth rally at my local church after thepreacher gave his testimony on how he was a killer. In the secondchapter of LifeTogether,Bonhoeffer talks that the reading of the Scriptures on the dailybasis makes every day more meaningful and beneficial because the wordof God alone helps the Christians with troubles and temptations. EvenJesus Christ defeated the devil in the wilderness during histemptation by using the word of God: “It is written that.” FromBonhoeffer’s teaching, my deep-seated Christian life and love ofJesus Christ have made my life prosper.
Ispent one year in jail with my two aides after being judged withmurder, extortion, and possessing a gun, which was illegal. We werereleased after the expiry of our incarceration period and went to theslum where we resided. Up to such a time, I still had no anyappointment of going back home. Evans and James, my aides, traveledto where they resided as I also went to my old friend’s flat. Myimmunity emaciated, but that did not bother me. Life has challenges,and that was one of them. Gary, my old colleague, allowed me to staywith him in his apartment as I waited for another opportunity to riseand use it to indemnify my financial status. Life was not as easy asit was before because I had no enough money to spend.
Itnever took me long to secure a job in the city despite its meagerearning per week. I became a merchandiser at one of the American’sbusiness people in the town and dropped several pieces of toothpasteand toothbrushes that earned me a high commission at the end of theday. I was given one of the small rooms behind the supermarket tostay for a while as I looked for a better place to settle.
MyPopularity and Creativity
Dueto my popularity and creativity in the town, the following monthfound me in my expensive but ostentatious lounge. I startedboycotting my work at the supermarket due to several arrangements ofmaking a lot of cash by simple means within a short period. Insteadof stealing from people while they are alive, I hatched a plan ofstealing caskets that had already been used to bury people. It wasthe job that I did for about two years with another group of aideswho assisted me to transport the used coffins from the cemetery tothe dealer.
Oneday, after unburying a coffin in the cemetery, the vehicle that wasslated to take it to the dealer delayed to come and it was about 4am. Since it was getting late, we carried the coffin along the nearbyforest. Unfortunately, we encounter a group of people in a heavytrack who were going to erect the electricity posts in the next ridgeof the slum. The vehicle hummed to a halt as the men hurriedly cameout to meet us. We threw the coffin away and started runninghelter-skelter. It is when my foot met a sharp log that piercedthrough my flesh of my ankle and injured me. The young men hadalready given up chasing after us and resumed to the vehicle. It wasin November 2009.
Theankle wound and that of stealing still pose a sharp pain in my heartuntil today. However, after reading the two books, I experienced asignificant change in my life. Bonhoeffer says that people shouldspend their aloneness to communicate with God. Such statement remindsme when I was alone while working with an American. It was theprecious time that I would have dedicated myself to God and tell Himall my wants and wishes. Bonhoeffer further says that silence andsolitude have therapeutic values in the human life (Nouwen,1992).
Hesays that solitude and silence, as a silent respect to God’s wordshas three expressions: meditation, prayer, and intercession. On theother hand, Nouwen says that the impacts of personal worship areexamined in our daily experiences with the community. Whetherindividual praises make a person weak or strong, affect the wholefamily. My spiritual wounds in conjunction with what Nouwen andBonhoeffersay have helped me grow strong in my spiritual life knowingthat stealing is not the will of God.
Backto My Salvation
Aftera long-running journey and a narrow escape from the mob justice nearthe cemetery, I went back to my apartment to rest as my aides helpedme bandage my ankle wound. Some few days later, I got informationthat my beloved cousin has died. Mulling over the kind of life I wasliving and the far I had wandered from the love of my parents andfriends, I was depressed.
Itwas enough for my life, and I decided to go back home and start mylife afresh if my parent could accept me. My wound never took long toheal and my aides never went against my plan. I paid them as we hadagreed and we parted ways. Two days later, I was at the bus stopready to take a vehicle back to the village. I was warmly welcomedhome like “the lost son.” My father was the happiest man in thecompound for my coming home because he thought that I was dead in theextortion incident because it was announced over the radio.
Aftera kingly reception and my cousin’s burial, my father told me thatit was through his prayer that I ultimately came home. He told methat God is great, and I needed to give him a chance of controllingmy life. He read some verses from the book of Psalms and Proverbsthat created an immense compunction in my heart. Fortunately, therewas a youth rally at my local church in January 2010. I decided toutilize that opportunity to try God’s love and see how it wouldchange my life. The young preacher preached exactly how my past lifewas and allowed me to give my testimony, and I confessed.
Inthe last chapter of Bonhoeffer`s book, talks about confession and theLord’s last supper. He says that confession is important to ourlife as it says something about people: that they are not afraid tobe linked with Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer further says that inconfession there is a breakthrough of assurance. On the other hand,Nouwen agrees that confession is related to the Holy Communion. Jesustold his disciples to come to worship after they have reconciled withtheir brothers. The wound of staying away from my parents helped meto shape my life, for I never felt the grip of their correctionwhenever I was wrong.
Applicationto Student Practice of Counseling
Everysuccessful person’s past life had several challenges. It may reacha time that such a person contemplates suicide or do something thatis against the will of God, such as consulting the magicians. Youthlife faces numerous issues such as peer pressure, drug abuse, andsexual behaviors. At this stage, if the student does not understandthe world might lose control and deviate from the right track.Parents also contribute to both success and failure of theirchildren. I was exposed to sensitive materials, such as a gun, whileas was young. My father never bothered to know where I was afterstealing his gun, although he was aware that I was up to no good.
However,through my realization that life is short, and God wanted to use meas a vessel to preach his gospel, am now saved, and the Lord’sgrace shrouds me every time. Also, Nouwen and Bonhoeffer`s books havespearheaded my Christianity. In his five-chapter book, Bonhoefferguided me in spiritual matters on how to worship and live a good lifewith others. On the other hand, Nouwen says that prayer is the key toeverything. He also says that those people who lust after money havenot yet received the Savior. Such a statement reminds me the kind oflife I was living in the city. I was trafficking drugs and carryingout illicit activities to get a lot of money. Little did I know thatsuch money would lead be to the nasty path.
Bonhoeffersays in the first chapter of LifeTogetherthat people should not segregate themselves. Instead, they shouldlive together because the Christian community belongs to one anotherin Jesus Christ. I came to realize that I ran out of my familybecause I never had the love of God in me. Nouwen says that for theChristian to remain in a healthy and happy family, every member in itshould be able to distinguish between human love and spiritual love.
Stayingout of my family for more than fifteen years shows that both types oflove were not in me. Nouwen also stresses the personal worship is animportant thing in the Christian life. When a person’s life is hasbeen faced with several challenges, they should go down on theirknees and pray. I never knew that God was the controller of my lifewhen I was living in the city. If a person lives in God, he will notbe abandoned by his grace. If he also grasps His commandments, Hewill not allow such person to be tempted.
Alsoin his book, Bonhoeffer says that a good Christian should join atleast one ministry where he cites the book of Luke 9:46 todemonstrate how struggling for advantage emerging in a community is arejection of justification by faith. He says that bickering has beenthe main cause of life-to-death struggle in the community. While Iwas away from home, I never knew anything about Christian ministries.
Neitherdid I know their importance in my life. As a youth, there are severalspiritual activities that you should indulge. Bonhoeffer hasdescribed three types of ministries in Church. The ministry ofMeekness has been given the mandate to discipline other Christians’tongue. Ministries of Listening has the duty of reaching out to otherChristians, which is imperative to all church leaders, especially theclergy. Lastly, the Active Helpless Ministry is necessary in theChristian life. God created us to serve Him and His people. Afterreceiving God’s word and accept Jesus as the savior of my life, Ijoined the Active Helpless ministry to serve the Lord.
Bonhoeffer,D. (1954). Life Together. New York: Harper and Row.
House,P. R. (2015). Bonhoeffer`sseminary vision: A case for costly discipleship and life together.
Nouwen,H.J.M. (1972). The Wounded Healer. New York: Image Books